James Thurber, Cartoon Critic; William Steig Drawings At Auction; Meet The Artist (1943): Gluyas Williams

James Thurber, Cartoon Critic

On a recent search through Thurber biographies in the Spill library I happened upon a Thurber letter I’d forgotten about. Written to Harold Ross, and dated October 20, 1941, it appears in the mother ship of all Thurber biographies, Harrison Kinney’s twelve hundred and thirty-eight page Thurber: His Life And Times (Henry Holt, 1995).

Thurber, unhappy his ideas supplied for the artist, Mary Petty have been rejected, takes issue with five drawings in the current issue — the issue of October 18, 1941.  After Thurber reminds Ross that this letter is not his first complaint (all Thurber quotes in this post are bolded):

You already have filed away for your autobiography some 50 or 100 blasphemous notes from me on what is the matter with the magazine.

he goes on to say:

The really great New Yorker drawings have had to do with people sitting in chairs, lying on the beach, or walking along the street.  The easy answer the art meeting always gives to the dearth of ideas like the ones I am trying to describe is that they are hard to get or that nobody sends them in anymore. It seems to me that the principle reason for this is that the artists take their cue from the type of drawing which they see constantly published in the magazine.

Here are those first three drawings, by Richard Decker, Alan Dunn, and Ned Hilton. (Mr. Decker’s caption, difficult to read in the scan, is: “Where have you been. Your plane crashed half an hour ago.”)

Thurber writes of these drawings:

Years ago I wrote a story for The New Yorker in which a woman who tried to put together a cream separator suddenly snarled at those who were looking at her and said, “Why doesn’t somebody take this god damned thing away from me?”  I want to help take the cream separators, parachutes, fire extinguishers, paint brushes and tomahawks away from four-fifths of the characters that appear in the The New Yorker idea drawings…

Thurber goes on to talk about two other drawings in the issue. Here’s Thurber on this drawing by  Leonard Dove:

It must have been six years ago you told me drawings about psychoanalysts were terribly out of date. The next week I turned in one in which the analyst says, “A moment ago, Mrs. Ridgway, you said that everybody you looked at seemed to be a rabbit. Now just what did you mean by that?”* …But you can’t publish a drawing about an analyst and a woman with the caption, “Your only trouble is, Mrs. Markham, that you’re so horribly normal.” This is one of the oldest, tritest, and most often repeated lines in the world.

And then Thurber moved on to this Chon Day drawing:

…this is such an extravagant distortion of reality, it is so far removed from what any salesman would ever say, that to be successful it has to be fantastic. But since the situation is not fantastic, it ends up simply being a bad gag…No sales man ever said to any housewife what you have him saying in the cartoon I am talking about. That is a gag man’s idea.

*Thurber didn’t quite get his own caption right. The actual caption: “You said just a moment ago that everybody you look at seems to be a rabbit.  Now just what do you mean by that, Mrs. Sprague?” It appeared in The New Yorker February 13, 1937.

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William Steig Drawings At Auction

The other day it was noted here that the Swann Galleries will auction New Yorker work December 10th. Yesterday a Spill visitor sent me this listing of Steig drawings to be auctioned December 5th by Bonhams. Some beautiful work by one of The New Yorker‘s Cartoon Gods!

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Meet The Artist (1943): Gluyas Williams

Speaking of NYer Cartoon Gods, here’s a self portrait of Gluyas Williams from the 1943 catalog published by the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum.

…and here’s Mr. Williams’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

Gluyas Williams (above left undated; right: 1 975) Born, San Francisco, 1888. Died, Boston, Mass., 1982. One of the pillars of Harold Ross’s stable of artists, and one of Ross’s favorite cartoonists. His beautiful full page drawings were a regular feature in the magazine. Mr. Williams illustrated a number of Robert Benchley’s collections, providing the cover art as well as illustrations. New Yorker work: March 13, 1926 – Aug 25, 1951. Key collections: The Gluyas Williams Book ( Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1929), The Gluyas Williams Gallery (Harper, 1956). Website: http://www.gluyaswilliams.com/

 

 

 

Playful Pages; Early Gahan Wilson Art; Yesterday’s and Today’s New Yorker Daily Cartoon

Playful Pages

On many a Monday Tilley Watch I mention placement of art. Usually I’m talking about how large a drawing appears on the page, and where it sits. I’m fairly certain I’ve also mentioned how the art once played across the pages of The New Yorker, creatively interacting with text.  While randomly (electronically) flipping through elder issues of The New Yorker this morning I happened upon some examples.  The first one (by Al Frueh) is especially striking:

Below: Julian de Miskey, February 6, 1926.

Below: JTI, November 6, 1926.

Below: unsigned, November 24, 1928

Below: Leonard Dove, on the left and Rea Irvin on the right, November 24, 1928.

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Early Gahan Wilson

If you head over to Mike Lynch’s blog you’ll see, courtesy of Dick Buchanan, a great selection of early Gahan Wilson art.  And be sure to link to the Gahan Wilson GoFundMe campaign that’s in progress Mr. Wilson, one of the New Yorker cartoon gods,  is suffering from severe dementia. 

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Today’s Daily

Yesterday’s Daily cartoon was a duo effort: Jason Chatfield and Scott Dooley.  Today’s cartoon is by Emily Flake.

Jason Chatfield began contributing to The New Yorker in 2017, Emily Flake in 2008.

The Monday Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue of July 2, 2018

  Link here to read what Barry Blitt had to say about his tied-in to the headlines cover (shown above).

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One of these days I’m going to gather all the New Yorker covers that’ve incorporated the Statue of Liberty. For now, I took a look back to see when Lady Liberty first appeared on a New Yorker cover. Surprisingly, it took awhile to show up what with the the magazine being, in those earliest of issues, so New York City-centric. Its debut was on the Sue Williams cover of September 7, 1929:

 The Statue’s next appearance was on the cover of June 24, 1939, when artist Leonard Dove incorporated it humorously:

It wasn’t until the end of WW2 that the statue appeared again — in the issue dated the week the war ended with Japan’s surrender. Alan Dunn shows us a troop ship arriving home in New York Harbor; soldiers are sticking their heads out of portholes, looking to see Lady Liberty way off in the distance, her silhouette just barely decipherable. Graphically speaking, in this instance less is powerfully more.

And now on to the current issue, close to seventy-three years later.  From the Dept. of Just Sayin’:  21 illustrations this week, 3 of them full pages. Just 10 cartoons (plus one full page by Ed Steed).

Noting two of the ten this week: Roz Chast makes excellent use of one of the cartoonist’s handiest tools: the hot dog cart. In this case it’s floss being sold not franks. What I really like about Ms. Chast’s cartoon is that it falls into the wonderful New Yorker cartoon vein of being both surprising and highly relatable. It delivers on Peter Arno’s definition of a good cartoon: a drawing that deals a one-two punch.  If the Spill handed out ribbons like they do over on the Cartoon Companion site, this cartoon would be awarded one. The Spill does, however, applaud.

The other cartoon noted is by Seth Fleishman.  Bulls driving racing cars at Pamplona, with the lead car driven by a person.  A lovely drawing. I believe there are at least two Charles Addams cartoons with a moose driving a car, but bulls driving cars is a rarity. One somewhat closer to Mr. Fleishman’s that comes readily to mind (forgive me) is a drawing of mine from the ancient times. It appeared in The New Yorker, March 7, 1989 — technically, those are steer.

 

For the record, your honor, here’s the list of cartoonists in the issue (the aforementioned Mr. Steed’s page is listed higher up on the Table of Contents):

Lastly, here’s Rea Irvin’s iconic masthead from The New Yorker.  It disappeared in May of 2017, bafflingly replaced by a redrawn version. For more on this, go here.

— See you next week

  

 

  

 

 

 

No Joke: Rea Irvin’s April 1947 Cover

The cover above has always been a favorite. The first time I came across it I thought I’d stumbled upon a printing error. But no, it’s yet another gift from Rea Irvin, cover artist, designer (as in his designs for the magazine’s masthead, as well as his adapted development of the typeface), cartoonist, “art supervisor” (his unofficial or official designation at the New Yorker). 

The rest of the issue is a lot of fun too. An Addams so-called “Addams Family” drawing (“We’ve had part of this floor finished off for Uncle Eimer”); a Richard Taylor strip that runs across the bottom of two pages; a half-page Hokinson “lunch club ladies” cartoon; a Sam Cobean shadow play drawing; a page and-a-half Steinberg spread under the heading “Berlin” and so much more (other cartoonists in the issue: Otto Soglow, Alan Dunn, Barney Tobey, Robert Day, Whitney Darrow, Jr., Alain, and Leonard Dove). Typical of the era, the cartoons dominated the pages, as if the text was secondary to the art.

The New Yorker before Addams, Steig and Steinberg

NY-albums

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the release this past week of The New Yorker’s Cartoons of the Year 2013 (a relative of a long line of New Yorker Albums seen in the photo) I thought it would be fun to leaf through The New Yorker‘s very first collection, simply called The New Yorker Album. published in 1928, just three years after the magazine’s debut. For starters, I love this part of the introduction (authored by “The New Yorker”):

The New Yorker has been dealing with artists for upward of three years.  We are tired but happy.  Our artists, we feel, have been worth the trouble. They have taken the electric and protoplasmic and comic town and reduced it to page size. To be merry and wise and subtle every week is scarcely possible; but there have been good weeks.

If you substitute the “upward of three years” to “upward of eighty-eight years” the excerpt could’ve easily introduced the 2013 collection.

The very first cartoon you run into in the 1928 collection is a full page by Peter Arno.  This makes perfect sense as Arno was, just  three years into the New Yorker’s life, already its star (his co-star was Helen Hokinson).  Arno was fond of the full page cartoon, but paging through the Album, you’ll find he had plenty of company in that department. Ms. Hokinson, Rea Irvin, Gluyas Williams, George Shanks, Al Frueh, Gardner Rea, and Reginald Marsh, to name but a few, all worked well on a full page (you’ll find a number of full page cartoons in the 2013 collection, but none originally ran as such; full page cartoons in the modern New Yorker are rare, with Roz Chast’s work being one of the exceptions.

What might be remarkable to anyone looking through the 1928 Album is the absence of plenty of the marquee names we associate with the magazine’s past. Cartoonists such as  Charles Addams, William Steig, Saul Steinberg, Thurber and George Price had yet to begin contributing drawings to the magazine (Thurber had begun contributing his writing in 1927, but The New Yorker’s founder & first editor, Harold Ross, wouldn’t publish a Thurber drawing in the magazine until 1931). Addams’ work didn’t appear until 1933, Steig’s not until 1935, Steinberg’s not until 1941, George Price’s not until 1932.  The Album of 1928 was a blueprint for what was to come in later years on the magazine’s pages: a variety of styles, of cartoon worlds, beautifully co-existing.

Much as the 2013 collection is heavy on a handful of cartoonists, such was the case in 1928.  The aforementioned Hokinson, Irvin, Rea, Frueh and Arno command the most space, with plenty of full pages.  Alan Dunn and Barbara Shermund’s work is everywhere, but mostly half-page or quarter-page. Work by other familiar names (or soon to be familiar names) are sprinkled about the volume.  There’s a single Mary Petty drawing (if my counting is correct) with healthier showings by, among others, Otto Soglow, Perry Barlow, Leonard Dove, Peggy Bacon, John Held, Jr., Alajalov (still spelled “Aladjalov”), I. Klein, Carl Rose and Garrett Price (in an early style, far less fluid than his later work). There are a few spreads in the Album (unlike the spreads in the 2013 Cartoons of the Year,  which were created specifically for that publication, the 1928 spreads ran in the The New Yorker).

What struck me as I looked back and forth between the 1928 collection and the 2013 collection (much as a spectator watches the ball during a tennis match) is that here we are eighty-eight years after the magazine’s debut,  still highly entertained, and yes, sometimes still puzzled, by the very simple format Harold Ross and company fostered and nurtured: a drawing atop a caption.  Every week we continue to dive into each issue, turning the pages, eager to run into the next cartoon (and lately, the Cartoon Caption Contest cartoon).  As someone commented on this site following a post on the Cartoons of the Year, “Can’t wait for the shiny new cartoons of 2014.”   Me neither.